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How to cut your energy bills
We don’t need to tell you that energy prices are rising fast, and most households are on variable tariffs. A quick search will also tell you that cheaper deals are non-existent at the minute as most of us are stuck at the Ofgem price cap. Below we’ll answer some common questions and give you some practical ways to save money on your household bills.
Should I try to switch energy supplier?
Generally switching isn’t an option for many people at the moment. Suppliers aren’t selling cheap deals and lots of us had our variable tariffs increase considerably with the 1 April price cap change and will see another hike in October.
It’s still important to understand your current tariff though, and what you should do depends on your situation. If you’re still on a low-priced fixed-term deal, don’t switch away from it early. You won’t find anything as cheap.
If your fixed tariff has ended or you’ve been moved from a failed supplier to a new one, you’ll be on a variable or default tariff. These tariffs are protected by Ofgem’s price cap – the next change is coming in October 2022. While it will be much pricier than any old deals, it’s unlikely you’ll find a cheaper fixed deal on the market.
If you can find one, a fixed term deal will give you price security over the coming months when the cap is expected to increase. You’ll pay more for it now, but if you see one that feels within reach, it’s worth calculating how much it will cost over the whole term, and how that compares to the predicted price cap. Always find out what the early exit fee is, in case prices change in future and you want to pull out.
What should I do if my energy direct debit has gone up?
If you don’t understand why your direct debit payments are going up, ask your supplier to explain the reason for the change. If you don’t agree then you can ask for your monthly payments to stay the same.
Your direct debit payments might have increased if you have come to the end of a fixed term deal and are now on a standard variable tariff, if you’re on a variable tariff and the rates have increased to the point that your supplier feels your direct debits are no longer covering your usage.
If you are unable to pay your higher energy bills, help is available. Depending on your circumstances, help may also be available from the government or other local grant schemes. Alternatively contact your supplier in the first instance, as they may well have support schemes available for you to use.
What’s the most efficient way to heat a room if I don’t want to use the central heating?
Central heating is generally the most cost-effective way to heat your home. Be sure to use timers, room thermostats and thermostatic radiator valves to control which rooms are heated and when. Obviously reducing the temperature on your thermostat will save you money over time.
If only need to heat one room, portable heaters are generally less efficient. If you have the funds, consider installing a log burner as these provide lots of heat.
What’s the most energy efficient way of cooking?
Electric ovens are more energy-efficient than gas ovens. Similarly electric induction hobs are the most efficient as they supply heat only to the pan and not out into the room.
Using a slow cooker is a good idea. Although it may be on for a number of hours, heating a small space requires less energy than cooking the same kind of meal in an oven.
A combi microwave or air-fryer may also be more efficient than a standard oven for cooking small items quickly.
How can I insulate my home without spending a fortune?
While some energy efficiency upgrades need professional installation, there are other quick and cost-effective DIY ways to insulate your home. Our top five recommendations are:
Insulate hot water pipes and tanks
Add cosy furnishings / curtains
How to pay less for broadband and mobile contracts
Should I switch my broadband?
Yes, definitely. If your contract period has ended it’s an opportunity to save money and potentially upgrade your package at the same time.
If you still have standard broadband, switching is an opportunity to upgrade to fibre. Fibre broadband is more reliable and usually much faster. Out of contract customers stand to make significant savings. Shop around and find the deal that’s best suits your needs. Switching is much less of a pain than it used to be.
Is my mobile phone contract a waste of money?
In most cases it probably is. The average UK mobile consumer uses just 4.5GB per month so its worth checking your usage and decreasing your plan accordingly. That said, deals with high data allowances aren’t always more expensive so this might not be a huge factor in your choice of provider.
What could save you a fortune is switching to a sim-only deal. If you look after your existing handset there’s no reason why it can’t last for years – there’s really no benefit in upgrading it to the newest version every 24 months as the technology has barely changed in recent years. Its also much kinder to the environment.
How to save on groceries
How can I reduce my grocery bills?
Discounted stores such as Aldi and Lidl are usually the cheapest. Alternatively Asda has been the cheapest of the four largest supermarkets for almost two years.
Plan out your meals for the week ahead. Make a list and shop for ingredients to make specific meals. Stews using cheaper cuts of meat are really cost effective and nutritious.
How do I grow my own food?
You can grow fruit and veg even if you don’t have a garden by using pots and window boxes. You can grow herbs on the windowsill and perhaps look into renting an allotment in your local area.
Should I buy pre-owned or refurbished tech to save money?
The answer to this is yes. There’s a strong second-hand and refurbished laptops market as well as many online stores which provide quality refurbished items such as TVs and mobile phones. As mentioned above this is also better for the environment.
A refurbished TV is a really good idea if you buy from the manufacturer or a trustworthy retailer. Amazon Outlet has refurbished TVs, as does Appliances Direct. Panasonic has its own eBay outlet, too.
In terms of mobile phones I am personally still using my Samsung Galaxy S6. It still works perfectly and I have no plans to change it any time soon.
How to save money on fuel
How do I drive more efficiently and use less fuel?
Without being too patronising its fairly obvious that if your driving style is more conservative you’ll use less fuel and create less wear on tyres and brakes saving you money on replacements down the line.
What might not be so obvious are things like removing roof racks and roof bars which create wind resistance when driving. Ensuring tyres are inflated to the correct pressures is also a big factor in fuel economy. Check these yourself with a cheap and simple tyre pressure gauge.
Newer vehicles also have automatic engine stop / start so your engine doesn’t idle when stationary at junctions or traffic lights.
Air conditioning and heated seats are heavy power consumers, and regular use can have a small but noticeable effect on your fuel bills. However, using your air conditioning occasionally can prevent it from developing problems later down the line – around once a week is fine.
Using a sat nav can help too. Not only can newer devices and apps help you avoid traffic jams, but many can also calculate the most economical routes.
How to get help
What do I do if I cant pay my bills?
If you can’t pay your council tax bill, contact your local council as soon as possible. You can spread your payments over 12 months rather than 10, or you might be granted a discount if you still can’t pay the balance. If you’re on a low income you may be eligible for a council tax reduction.
If you claim Universal Credit but find your payments aren’t enough to cover household bills, there are a range of schemes you may be eligible for. Cold weather payments could help reduce your monthly bills.
If you’re over 74 and you or your partner receive pension credit, you can also apply for a free TV licence. Also check if you are eligible for pension credit.
No matter what type of bill you’re worried about always talk to your provider first – the sooner they know, the sooner they’ll be able to work out a plan with you. Try to avoid unnecessary loans or other debt as these will usually cost you more in the long term.
We welcome your feedback, if you found this article useful, please let us know. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us and we’ll try our best to help.